CAPE TOWN – Less than three days after being sworn in as South Africa’s new President this month, Cyril Ramaphosa was already in urgent discussions with the mining industry, trying to resolve the bitter conflicts that had erupted under the previous government.
It was the latest sign of the reforms under way in South Africa and Zimbabwe, two of the most mineral-rich economies in southern Africa. Both have ranked poorly as mining investment destinations in recent years, hobbled by rampant corruption and strict ownership rules. But the sweeping leadership changes of recent months are opening the eyes of foreign investors.
The downfalls of former presidents Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe are seen as the best opportunity in many years to open up their mining sectors and remove the steep barriers to investment in both countries.
One of the biggest barriers was South Africa’s revised Mining Charter, announced by Mr. Zuma’s mining minister last year, which would impose new levies on mining companies and require mines to be at least 30-per-cent black-owned in perpetuity.
The announcement swiftly inflicted US$3.8-billion in market-value losses for South African mining companies. The industry went to court to block the new charter, and the two sides have not talked for months.
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